By Niall Clarke
- Premier League match-week 16 preview and predictions
- Niall takes on Neil in the Britwatch Premier League prediction contest
It is derby day this Sunday as we see both the Merseyside and Manchester derby in a big weekend of Premier League football. Our team covers them and more in this week’s preview.
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West Ham United vs. Chelsea (Saturday, 12:30)
The Hammers showed signs of improvement against Manchester City and nearly came out with a shock victory, but eventually City took over and turned the 1-0 deficit around. Chelsea have picked up form in recent weeks and once against look like a side that is very difficult to beat.
The Hammers may huff and puff, but I expect Chelsea to be a little too strong for David Moyes’ side.
Prediction: West Ham 0-2 Chelsea
Neil: Matchweek 16 kicks off with a London derby at the London Stadium. Chelsea are now unbeaten since mid-October having won their last two outings and with the festive schedule looming ever nearer, Antonio Conte’s men will want to continue their winning ways in the capital derby.
The Hammers put in a shift against Manchester City last Sunday, but ultimately fell victim to tired legs at the Etihad. There are signs however that West Ham are starting to improve under Moyes. Javier Hernandez could make his first start in four league games after injury, but the Mexican may not be enough to prevent another loss for the East Londoners and with Eden Hazard hitting top form, Chelsea should win comfortably enough.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
Burnley vs. Watford (Saturday, 15:00)
Niall: This is an interesting match between two of the Premier League’s best teams outside of the big six. Burnley have been flirting with the top six throughout the season, whilst Watford have been aiming to get themselves in that mix whilst playing an entertaining brand of football.
Marco Silva sets up his side to attack whilst Sean Dyche aims to keep a solid defence to win matches. That means we are in for a clash of styles and we will likely see Watford have more of the ball despite being an away side.
This match is a very tight match to call, so I think the smart money is on a score draw.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Watford
Neil: After a rare away loss, Burnley will look to correct matters as they host Watford at Turf Moor. Both sides have been the real surprise packages of the campaign so far, and few would have offered odds of the duo being inside the top half at the turn of the year – as now looks likely.
The Hornets have shown signs of faltering in recent weeks especially on the road, and as such this game could represent a significant moment in their season. The game is probably the toughest to call this weekend, and whilst I would normally tip Watford on the road I have a suspicion that both sides will cancel each other out somewhat.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Watford
Crystal Palace vs. AFC Bournemouth (Saturday, 15:00)
Niall: Crystal Palace host Bournemouth as they continute their attempt to survive under Roy Hodgson.
Palace have looked better in the league since Hodgson took over, but points wise they have not had a significant improvement. Bournemouth can not seem to get a run of form together though and could be in danger of being right in that relegation fight themselves.
Both sides are in a much win situation, but it is hard to forget what happened the last time Palace were at home. They got a late winner and there was a sense of optimism. The crowd will be right behind them and that may get them over the line.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-0 Bournemouth
Neil: The Eagles are battling against a rising tide to move out of the bottom three, but despite an improved run of performances in the league, Crystal Palace are still scratching around for the leftovers. Six points from their last four games is nothing to be sniffed at however, with Roy Hodgson’s men now unbeaten in over a month.
After a run of three successive clean sheets, the Cherries have hit another stumbling block taking just a point from the last two outings. The Christmas period for both sides is likely to a determining factor in their ability to stave off a relegation scrap, and with both teams now capable of both goals and defensive lapses, an open score draw is perhaps the best bet this weekend.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-2 Bournemouth
Huddersfield vs. Brighton (Saturday, 15:00)
Niall: It is the battle of promoted teams at the John Smith’s Stadium, and both have done okay in their first Premier League season thus far.
Success for both Huddersfield and Brighton has been largely down to their home forms, and that is why I think Huddersfield may nick this one. The Terriers have not travelled well, but they have proven to be difficult to beat at home (minus the Spurs thrashing). They do not score many goals, but this may be a case of one being enough for the win.
Prediction: Huddersfield 1-0 Brighton
Neil: Two of last season promoted sides face off in the top-flight for the first time this Saturday, with both sides perched in relative safety. The Terriers are beginning to look downwards rather than up however, after a run of four-straight league defeats having scored just once and conceding 13 goals along the way.
The Seagulls are really looking impressive having established themselves, but have been caught out against the big boys in two of the last three games. Chris Hughton’s side continue to play without fear however and with Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross have the tools for the top-flight. This will be a tight affair I fancy, but I am just edging the visitors to nick the points.
Prediction: Huddersfield 1-2 Brighton
Swansea vs. West Brom (Saturday, 15:00)
Niall: Swansea and West Brom are two sides in difficult situations. Both need the three points as they battle for survival, making this a real six pointer.
It will be interesting to see how the Baggies do under the tutelage of Alan Pardew. Often a new manager can have a big boost to a side, but I believe in this case there is more than survival in mind. Pardew may look to bring in a more fan friendly style to the Hawthorns and that will take time to settle.
There may not be many better chances ahead for the Swans to stop the rot. It is hard to back them at the moment, but surely they must win at some point?
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 West Brom
Neil: Wilfried Bony’s first goal back in Swansea colours would have been a massive boost for the hosts last weekend, but nevertheless fell to their sixth defeat in seven at Stoke. Rock bottom and four points from safety, the Swans must target this sort of fixture for a least a point.
The Baggies perhaps predictably got off to a goalless start to life under Alan Pardew, and as West Brom play another relegation-threatened side may look for repeat result at the Liberty Stadium. Paul Clement desperately need a boost of confidence and whilst I can see them taking a point here, it is not that win that they so badly need.
Prediction: Swansea 1-1 West Brom
Tottenham vs. Stoke (Saturday, 15:00)
Niall: Without a win in four games, Tottenham come into Saturday’s match against Stoke in a bit of a rut. Can they refind form and stop their skid?
Stoke are just not convincing me enough to back them for the upset. Tottenham look fairly vulnerable in the league, but with Stoke in no real form themselves, it may be an uphill task for them.
I believe Tottenham will get back in the win column here, and that will be a big relief for those fans at Wembley.
Prediction: Tottenham 3-1 Stoke
Neil: Despite continuing to flourish in the Champions League, the rot continues for Spurs who are now without a win in four league games. Whilst Harry Kane is still supplying the goals, the absence of Toby Alderweireld is being felt not just in defence but across the park.
The Potters to their credit fought back from adversity last weekend – albeit versus a confidence-bereft Swansea side. Xherdan Shaqiri is hitting some of his best form so far for Stoke having netted three goals in five league games, and being involved in most of their recent goals. The Swiss schemer is likely to be the visitors’ best chance of taking anything back to the Potteries at Wembley, but I can’t see it being enough as Spurs record their first win in over a month.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Stoke
Newcastle vs. Leicester City (Saturday, 17:30)
Niall: Saturday evening’s fixture sees Newcastle welcome Leicester to St. James’ Park in an attempt to end their terrible run of form.
The Magpies have lost four and drawn one of their last five, leaving them precariously close to the relegation zone. We know that Newcastle are capable of better as they have shown so far this campaign, but right now they are struggling and Rafa Benitez needs to find answers.
Leicester have put together a neat two match win streak to move themselves into the top 10. The side is looking more confident, and their good recent form may be enough to see them win.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Leicester
Neil: The Magpies are bang in trouble now after a chequered season on highs and lows on Tyneside. Rafa Benitez’s men have shown they can find the net, but their issues in defence are beginning to play a critical role in a lack of points on the board in recent months. The need for a striker is a must for Newcastle in January, with Joselu failing to find the target anywhere close to regularly.
The Foxes have stabilised nicely since the arrival of Claude Puel and after taking seven points from a maximum nine in their last three games, are in buoyant mood. Leicester are without a win since beating Swansea in October, which could be of concern ahead of the trip to the Toon. I just don’t see where the hosts can get at Leicester to have enough success here, and whilst they may breach the visiting defensive line, Jamie Vardy and co. should have enough to get the win on the counter-attack.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Leicester
Southampton vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 12:00)
The Gunners dominated large portions of the game against Manchester United, and may have gotten something out of it if not for a David de Gea masterclass in goal. The result was gutting, but their performance will mean their confidence will not be that shot.
Southampton sit 11th despite not doing anything remarkable during the season. I think their lack of attacking prowess will hurt them here and the Gunners will come through fairly comfortably.
Prediction: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Neil: In the first of three Sunday afternoon offerings, an improving Saints host Arsenal at St. Marys’. The hosts have seemingly shirked defensive responsibilities in the past few weeks, having scored in each of their last three outings – at a cost to their clean sheet tally. Charlie Austin is finding his range and could be in for festive cheer against the visitors.
Arsenal were stymied almost single-handedly by another obdurate showing from de Gea against Manchester United, but will be encouraged by how many chances the Gunners created last Saturday. A trip to Southampton has always been a tricky test for Arsene Wenger’s men, but although I can see them flattering to deceive, with a fully rested first team after Europa League rotation, I expect Arsenal to bounce back with a win.
Prediction: Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
Everton vs. Liverpool (Sunday 14:15)
The Toffees were in a mini-crisis until the arrival of Sam Allardyce saw them string back to back wins and back to back clean sheets. Everton now sit 10th and we sit and wonder what all the panic was about. They can top it off with a win against rivals Liverpool, but that is much easier said than done.
Jurgen Klopp’s side has found some remarkable consistency in recent weeks. The front line is firing on all cylinders, and after thrashing Spartak Moscow 7-0 in mid-week their confidence is sky high.
Expect goals in this one. Liverpool will no doubt get a few, and despite improved defensive performances in recent matches, they are still capable of leaking a few too. However, this is a good spell for the Reds and I see them continuing their winning ways in an entertaining affair.
Prediction: Everton 2-4 Liverpool
Neil: In what is being billed as ‘Derby Day’ the battle of Merseyside is first up at Goodison Park. The Toffees have steadied the ship with two wins in a row, but with the visit of a Liverpool side scoring goals for fun Sam Allardyce will be in for a litmus test this Sunday.
The Reds attacking unit have scored a phenomenal 46 goals between them so far this season, and having scored three or more times in all of the last nine games across the board, stopping Jurgen Klopp’s men is becoming an issue for the best of sides. Wayne Rooney is sure to be up for this though while adding to his goal collection versus Liverpool is a possibility, notching another victory is not so clear cut. It should a be thriller, but I just don’t see Everton doing enough to keep the Liverpool front four quiet.
Prediction: Everton 2-3 Liverpool
Manchester United vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 16:00)
Niall:The biggest match of the season is upon us, and it is a do or die situation for Manchester United. In short, they must win, or at least avoid defeat. A loss would essentially see the title race be all but finished by Christmas as the Reds would sit 11 points behind their rivals.
Manchester City are unbeaten this season domestically. Their overall record was ruined by Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, but that was a weakened side. City will be at full strength this time and will be in search of a record breaking 14th straight league victory.
The Citizens have gone off the boil in recent weeks compared to their earlier form. They have been rather fortunate to beat Huddersfield, West Ham and Southampton, but some will say their ability to win whilst not playing well is a sign of champions. That is an art Jose Mourinho has mastered over the years, but his side have seemingly gotten their groove back after a poor spell.
How big of a miss will Paul Pogba be? How will United approach this game? There are so many storylines heading into this one, but what matters the most is the final result.
I will not only give a scoreline prediction. I will say how I feel the match will go. United will come out of the blocks from the start like they did against Arsenal and grab an early goal. City will then take control of the game as United go defensive, and it will be a siege on the United goal until the equaliser finally comes in the second half. The prediction is 1-1 and we are none the wiser.
Prediction: Man United 1-1 Man City
Neil: This is it. The big one. This date has been circled on the calendars of many football fans across the globe since it came out and with the Reds Devils eight points off their visitors, defeat is unthinkable. In what will be a meeting of the minds between Messrs Mourinho and Guardiola, it will be fascinating the see how both approach the game.
Mourinho is unlikely to do anything other than cast a defensive blanket over the midfield – especially with Paul Pogba banned – but United really need to win here. That said, a loss for the hosts could almost hand City the title before Christmas has even arrived with an eleven-point lead. That factor is the critical one here in Pogba and without him – despite clear evidence of the Citizens beginning to come unglued – I see City sneaking a narrow win. It will be tense at Old Trafford, but no classic. Guardiola will not care if he takes the spoils back across to the blue half of the city, which, I believe he will.
Prediction: Man United 0-1 Man City
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